Final take: This was the performance we have been waiting to see
When Scott Frost was hired at Nebraska in December of 2017, we envisioned a lot of nights like Saturday.
Games where his offense overwhelmed the opponent and executed at a high level. Games where his defense played fast and got off the field. We finally saw that in his 38th game as a Husker head coach.
It was all there on Saturday. Explosive plays on offense, a physical running game that went for 434 yards on the ground and a defense that smothered Northwestern for just 37 rushing yards. The Big Red won 56-7, as it was arguably the most embarrassing performance by a Pat Fitzgerald team during his time at Northwestern.
Was this a turning point? It sure felt like it, but we really won't know now until next week when 5-0 Michigan comes to town.
“I said it to you guys that the team was more confident going into this week than they have been all year," head coach Scott Frost said following his team's 56-7 win. "They told me that. They said they are more confident, who they are right now than when they were at 0-0 because they know what kind of team they are and how well they have been playing, and we have done a few things and got ourselves beat a couple of times in games we could have won. But the guys were really confident.
"This is the most confident I have been going into a game since I have been at Nebraska. I think that confidence played out how we played.”
The Huskers put up the most points they have ever scored on a Power Five opponent since 2007 when they hung 70 on Kansas State.
The 664 yards of total offense was the most ever given up by a Pat Fitzgerald team in his tenure, which began in 2006.
“I have never been a part of a game like that versus a Big Ten opponent here," sixth-year senior JoJo Domann said. "It felt good. It felt like if you just execute on all cylinders like we are capable of, and that we do from time to time, but then putting it all together it was great to see. Unbelievable atmosphere tonight. I feel just so blessed to be in this position really trying to soak it all in like I only have so many of these left.”
We will find out all we need to know about this team next week when No. 14 Michigan comes into Lincoln for an ABC night game.
“That is literally what you live for. Like you cannot draw it up any better," Domann said of next week's showdown vs. Michigan. "They got a piece of us last time (in 2018). I was not there. I was injured, but I watched the game, still have a sour taste in my mouth. So we are playing for respect. We are playing to represent Nebraska. We are playing to win.”
Now on to the breakdown...
What I saw on Saturday
***I think Nebraska found its running back. Jaquez Yant ran it better on Saturday than we've seen at NU since Devin Ozigbo in 2018. It really makes you wonder why Yant wasn't seeing more time earlier? Was this a head coach decision on Saturday? If it was, it sure worked.
***The left side of Teddy Prochazka and Nouri Nouili looked physical. They fired off the ball and this was a different-looking offensive line than the one we've seen the last five weeks. You get the impression Frost pushed these buttons as well this week to shake up his offensive line.
***Martinez's 70-yard throw on the opening play to wide receiver Samori Toure was nearly intercepted. Credit Toure for coming back on it and stepping in front of the safety. That play set the tone for the night.
***Nebraska's 56 points on Saturday are the most ever in a Big Ten game. The last time NU scored more points vs. a Power Five opponent was in 2007 when Joe Ganz sliced up Kansas State for 70 points.
***Nebraska finished the game with 657 total yards, marking its second game with better than 600 yards this season (663 vs. Fordham). NU has six games with at least 600 yards under Scott Frost. Northwestern had not allowed 600 yards of total offense since a 2005 game against Arizona State.
***Senior linebacker JoJo Domann had a big night. He had two sacks, two forced fumbles and he caused an intentional grounding penalty. Domann led the Huskers with nine solo tackles.
***We saw wide receiver Oliver Martin for the first time since the Illinois game and Casey Rogers for the first time this season.
I thought Martin added a stead presence when it came to fielding punts.
***Linebacker Nick Henrich doesn't get a lot of praise, but he played a really good game. He blew up a screenplay that Northwestern had set up for a potential big gain.
***Nebraska's first penalty of the game didn't come until the 13:33 mark of the third quarter. The first offensive penalty was a false start in the mid-third quarter from Bryce Benahrt.
***With Martinez in the game, NU's offense scored 49 points on 47 total snaps. The Huskers averaged 11.3 yards per play with Matinez in at quarterback. The offense put up 321 yards rushing and 202 yards passing when Martinez left the game at the 9:16 mark of the third quarter.
***I really liked the new fourth-quarter song Nebraska did on Saturday night. I can't imagine what it could potentially be like next week vs. Michigan.
The final grade out
Rushing offense: A
There was a noticeable difference with Teddy Prochazka and Nouri Nouili on the left side, along with Jaquez Yant added into the mix at running back. This was the most physical we have seen the Huskers look all year. There were also some great wrinkles added into the offense with the option, including Zavier Betts's 83-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Adrian Martinez also looked faster coming off the edge. NU finished with 434 yards rushing.
Passing offense: A-
Martinez hit on some key deep balls, including a pair to Samori Toure. He missed on a couple. The most impressive thing is he had time. This was the first time we've seen him stand in the pocket comfortably since the Fordham game.
Rushing defense: A
Nebraska came to play up-front. When Northwestern wanted to run, they had no chance. The play of the game was when JoJo Domann forced a red zone fumble recovered by Deontre Thomas.
Passing defense: B
Northwestern wide receiver Stephon Robinson gave the Huskers some problems, but the pass rush by the Big Red caused more problems.
Special teams: A
We saw a perfect night on PAT's from Connor Culp, an 84-yard punt from William Przystup and every punt was fielded cleanly by Oliver Martin. It doesn't get much better than that for Nebraska, who has obviously had their struggles in this phase of the game.
Sean Callahan can be reached at email@example.com and he can be heard each day at 6:45 am and 5:05 pm on Big Red Radio 1110 KFAB in Omaha during the football season. He can also be seen on KETV Channel 7 in Omaha during the fall and each week he appears on NET's Big Red Wrap-Tuesday's at 7 pm.